Director of the Department of Emergency Management, Judy Thomas. (FP)

Barbados is taking a closer look at hazard mitigation to minimise the impact of disasters when they strike.

And, the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) is the driving force behind the move as it carries out its responsibility to ensure that hazard mitigation is coordinated on the island.

These were among points highlighted by Director of the DEM, Judy Thomas, during a recent National Hazard Mitigation workshop at the Courtyard by Marriott.

"The workshop is a consultative process to provide input into what will be a national mechanism for hazard mitigation," she explained. She added that hazard mitigation was being viewed as a developmental issue moreso than an emergency function.

"We are looking at the threats Barbados will have to face and what it could do to reduce the impact by the nature of policies which individuals and agencies will have to perform to ensure the impact on the community is reduced significantly before we get to the response and recovery phase," Ms. Thomas said.

However, she told stakeholders that the lobby would have to be "loud and long" to make a change with the risks which Barbados was likely to face in the future.

Programme Officer at DEM, Nicole Greenidge, explained that hazard mitigation was any sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk to human life and property from hazards.

She added that measures could include having the necessary insurance to provide cover; public awareness initiatives, and data collection so people would be aware of the risks, establishing, implementing and enforcing the necessary codes such as the building code and planning and zoning.

"Barbados has some plans and legislation, but there is no systematic way of doing things. There is no plan for how we would reduce the risks. We need one plan and one vision," Ms. Greenidge said.

Director of the Value Added Tax Division, Annette Weekes, told participants that Caribbean countries, due to their small size, were constantly vulnerable to annual challenges of disasters such as hurricanes and floods, without much time to "catch themselves".

She noted that while larger countries could absorb the impact of natural disasters, those in the Caribbean depended heavily on each other. "Caribbean governments’ access to insurance facilities is limited. We have to help ourselves. The economic costs are borne by governments and households. So, it is about people helping people," Ms. Weekes stressed, noting it was done during the disasters that occurred in Haiti and Grenada.

She also supported the idea of moving towards hazard mitigation to reduce the losses from disaster situations.


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